Woman Asks State of Mississippi to Recognize Divorce from Her Wife

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In yet another test of the country's post-DOMA landscape, a woman residing in Southaven, Mississippi is asking for recognition of her out-of-state marriage to her wife so that she can be granted a divorce. The AP reports that Lauren Beth Czekala-Chatham's marriage to Dana Ann Melancon was performed in California, but Mississippi, like 28 other states, has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

ChathamCzekala-Chatham filed her divorce petition in DeSoto County Chancery Court on Sept. 11. Her lawyer, J. Wesley Hisaw, said a favorable ruling on the petition would not mean that same-sex couples could get married in Mississippi because that's banned under Mississippi statue.

"My client is not looking to start gay marriage in Mississippi. She wants the marriage from another state to be recognized so she can get a divorce and protect herself," Hisaw said.

Czekala-Chatham said in a telephone interview Friday that she has children from a prior relationship and is concerned that Melancon could contest her will and possibly get her kids' inheritance if they don't get divorced.

Czekala-Chatham is seeking the couple's house in Mississippi and alimony. Czekala-Chatham hopes Mississippi will recognize her marriage so she can get divorced even if the case goes all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

"I don't know any other way out of it," she said.

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Matt Steffey, a constitutional law professor at Mississippi College in Clinton, said Czekala-Chatham's case is a longshot.

"There's no right to terminate a gay marriage in Mississippi any more than there is a right to consummate one," Steffey said 

Mississippi is not the only state where the issue of gay divorce is being addressed. Last month, the Texas Supreme Court announced it would consider whether the state has jurisdiction over same-sex divorces.